Classroom tech 2.0

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In the past couple of years schools nationwide began to adopt technology into their daily curriculum.

The draw to technology was accessibility, information and sharing capabilities, which is why Minnehaha Academy created the Bring your Own Learning Device program (also known as B.O.L.D.) in 2013.

B.O.L.D. has been both beneficial and complicated. Technology Incorporated, an earlier Talon article written by junior Taylor Bye discussed Minnehaha’s response to the pilot program that brought iPads into the school and incorporated them into curriculum.

Many students, faculty, students and staff were pessimistic but that soon disappeared as B.O.L.D. was fully integrated into the classroom daily. Though that pessimism disappeared, technology in school has proven to be a multi-layered matter.

Before adopting or creating any technological program, schools have to figure out what’s necessary to do before hand.

Betsy Corocoran co-founder and CEO of EdSurge, a company that catalogs and indexes educational technology products, told the Huffington Post in late August 2013 that schools and educational systems need to ask questions.

Some of her questions were targeted to teachers: “What is my tolerance for experimenting with technology? What are my student’s needs and goals?”

Other questions were for the school as a whole: “What kind of hardware does your school currently have? What’s your budget?”

Minnehaha asked many of those questions. Ranging from infrastructure to device brand Minnehaha ultimately decided to upgrade and then welcome iPads as the main device for class work.

How it’s going

“We think it’s gone really well,” said Vice Principal Michael DiNardo. “There were some concerns that every last person was going to be on an iPad, and that’s not the case. We knew that every teacher would use it differently: some classes would integrate it fully, and others would use it more sporadically.”

When junior Carissa Shern’s iPad broke it was more difficult than she expected it would be. In her Enriched Algebra class all assignments are done and submitted through Notability and Google drive. She likes that the B.O.L.D. program allows the use of multiple devices.

Some other concerns Minnehaha has come across have been Internet connectivity issues and the new cheating/distraction possibilities.

Connectivity issues

Issues with the Internet have been stressful for teachers, like science teacher Sam Terfa, as well as for program leaders such as Sam Meyers. When the Internet stops or slows, a whole class period may be ruined. Teachers then have to determine what else can be done to get further in the unit of study.

Connectivity issues have been a conundrum. To deal with the infrastructure, Meyers aided in the upgrade of the school’s airports/aerohives. It seems more changes need to be made.

“Putting more basketballs on the court doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better game,” said Network and Database Manager Patrick Gibbons who has been an essential person when it comes to infrastructure.

It’s not all about how many devices (in this case airports) a school has but about their strength and their placement, and too many devices only leads to interference. Gibbons and the tech team believe that the new airports, set up around the school, are perfectly placed which throws the theory of interference out the window. The Internet problem just means more tweaking somewhere else.

Even when the Internet is working well many have to worry about what’s going on behind open screens.

Cheating and distractibility

With iPads, open apps can be closed with a swipe of a finger and homework can easily be shared.

Terfa caught a student cheating once, and attempting to prevent another incidence Terfa found a temporary fix.

“I used AirServer to mirror everyone’s iPads to my computer, which is a good idea in theory, but it slows the computer way down,” said Terfa.

The incidence was an eye opener because the new devices brought in more ways to easily break the rules which are stated in the Minnehaha student handbook.

“The concerns will always be the distractibility,” said DiNardo. “[But] the distraction will always be there, even with paper and pencil there are still phones.”

Future plans

Though B.O.LD. will continue to give students device options, “the recommendation is all iPads,” said DiNardo. “[Next year] I believe we are saying we are an iPad school. We found this year that students who don’t have an iPad don’t necessarily have the same experience.”

A new development, intended for the incoming freshmen, will be the Digital Citizenship Seminars. Visiting The Blake School, Meyers saw that they had a program in place to teach it’s students the ins and outs of technology.

“We’re hoping to start in the fall,” said Meyers. “Most schools are going to some sort of digital program, whether it’s one–to-one iPads, one-to-one laptops [or] Chrome books. Pretty much all schools are going to it and we need to carve out time to discuss issues surrounding the use of that technology that often gets overlooked – responsible use, etiquette, cyberbullying, social media, digital footprint – all of these types of things.”

The seminars will occur during advisee periods. These issues, though cumbersome at times, have aided not only in interactive learning but have also given students the reality that failure is acceptable. Technology is relatively new and is always changing, and because of that not many people can claim they are experts. Trying new things on a tablet or a laptop and failing doesn’t mean failure, it means the opportunity to later succeed and then help others.

“The most important thing to understand is that technology is not the end game,” wrote Gay Krause for the San Juan Mercury News. “It is a means to achieve what wasn’t possible in the classroom much of the last century. Show me a teacher trained to integrate technology seamlessly into the learning experience, and I will show you a teacher who is inspired to try new and challenging projects in the classroom, and students who rise to the challenge, interpreting information in new and innovative ways.”


About Pauline Ojambo

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